First SUP False Albacore
Honing in on Harbor Blues and False Albacore in Niantic bay can be quite the thrill, especially on the fly from boat or a personal watercraft such as a Standup Paddle Board (SUP). I match my rods with either a Rio Striper line with a 26ft sinking head and intermediate running line or Rio's Outbound Short with Intermediate head. 6-8ft mono leader, wire bite tippet (for blues), large & small Bunker patterns, eel patterns (at night), Clouser Minnows and synthetic hair Spread fly's (butterfish) all work exceptionally well due being quite sparse and lacking buoyancy.
If you paddle slowly and are observant, you’ll see and discover gifts on the water that are hard to believe, especially when fishing Connecticut’s bountiful estuaries such as Niantic Bay.
After calling it a day, I slowly drove west along Niantic Bay, exhaustedly gazing beyond the tip of my SUP, which was dripping salt and sand on my windshield at the blood-orange sky in the distance. I had spent the summer day chasing false albacore and harbor bluefish on my standup paddle board (SUP) while only landing and releasing a dozen or so blues. The sun had just set beneath a calm, humid sky making way for a waxing moon rising to the east. Bidding a farewell glance at the bay one last time, I noticed a cloud of birds less than 20 feet from shore diving at boiling waters below. A double-take to confirm, blinker on and an immediate U-turn followed without hesitation. “Could this be it?” I thought. “Nah more blues. But what if I’m right?”
A recurring thought hounded me, picturing my first false albacore landed on a fly on my SUP after weeks of pursuing them Watch Hill, RI to Norwalk, CT, hooking up on a several albies and harbor bluefish, but only landing the blues.
I parked in a now empty lot, grabbed my board, rod, headlamp and paddle, and raced to the beach, launching onto the low-tide, glassy bay. Feeling my heart rate rise, I squinted through sweaty eyes a half-mile distant and saw the birds still working.
As I paddled closer, the birds were more spread out as the predators had strategically parted the bait balls along the rocky beach. I knelt, jamming my paddle into its holder. I quickly grabbed my rod as I glided into ideal position for a cast. The humid air filled my lungs as I blew the salt from my lips while settling my stance. Stripping the line in with the fly just below the surface, I noticed an albacore race at it and underneath my board, followed by three others. One wet cast and one haul to get the line back out there 30ft.
The second cast unfurled onto the water, sank a few inches, I gave one hard strip, and felt the tug of a lifetime. This was the one. I leaned back and tightened my drag as I could see my chartreuse line zipping through the guides. A SUP sleigh ride was underway along the beach of Niantic Bay.
Lift the rod, reel in line and repeat. One quality of SUP fly fishing is that you draw yourself to the fish nearly twice as fast as you would from any other platform. I've learned that by anticipating the fish spotting the board, I’m ready to loosen my drag to let the fish run. I find it keeps me on my board, rather than next to it.
After 10 minutes of tightening and loosening the drag during explosive runs, the fish began to tire. I turned my rod and lifted, exposing the fish’s side and head 10 ft out and drew it closer. Grabbing the leader, I stared at its large eye and pointed jaw, which were glistening in the moonlight as I slid it from the water onto the board. The battle was over. I was beaming as I dislodged the mangled fly, bowed to give this magnificent specimen my gratitude before its release.